My Favorite London Hotels
Sleeping around London
article and images by Carole Terwilliger Meyers
He who is tired of London is said to be tired of living. But maybe he (or she) really only needs a good night’s sleep.
“Shall I arrange for a tea tray to be sent up, then?” inquired the Langham London’s accommodating general manager upon my completion of the check-in process. After eleven hours on an airplane and several more on the road, they were sweet words indeed, assuring me that I had selected yet another gem to add to my personal collection of favorite London hotels.
I started “collecting” London hotels on my second visit, when I was more concerned about price than ambiance. (On my first visit, during my post-college backpacking grand tour, I stayed free with a friend in the suburb of Hampstead, where my host’s charming old flat overlooked the heath. I’ve never been able to beat that price or ambiance.) On the second time around, my husband and I, giddy with the prospect of leaving our two children behind with Grandma while we frolicked sans famille abroad, called the modest Ridgemont Hotel b&b two months ahead and made a reservation. We lodged there in the Bloomsbury section of London for our entire five-night stay.
Years later, on my third visit to London, Grandma and our 12-year-old daughter accompanied us. This time we splurged and spent our first two nights at the elegant Langham London (about which Grandma still raves: “Now I know how the other half lives.”) and the subsequent four nights back in now-familiar Bloomsbury at the Crescent Hotel–another budget-friendly spot. (On that trip the exchange rate grew worse each day, and we literally gagged on prices. It was so bad that we four actually found ourselves in Chinatown sharing two pot stickers by cutting them in half, refusing to accept reality and pay approximately $5 for two more.)
My next visit was on a layover during a journey home from having personally delivered my now-teenage daughter to a family in Spain, where she was being hosted for a month. My husband and I spent two nights in the upscale Stafford and two nights at the more modest Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel, the latter located in what has become our favorite section of town–Bloomsbury.
Elaborating on this pattern, on my most recent foray into London, I actually stayed in four different hotels: two over five nights upon arrival, then after returning from a tour into Scotland, two more hotels over two nights before departing for home. And I can now attest that though it is quite exciting to arrive in London twice on one trip, it is even more exciting to arrive four times.
In a city with thousands of hotels, it is presumptuous to say one is the best. However, it is possible to say one is your personal favorite. Or, like me, you can just keep adding new conquests to your own “collection.” Whether you prefer to return time and again to the familiarity of the same hotel, or whether you prefer always to try something new, I think you’ll find a hotel in my personal collection that intrigues you.
So, luvie, do print out this article and stick it on your ‘fridge right now–you never know when you’ll be going to London on your way to or from somewhere else.
playing my game: changing hotels
Booking a memorable lodging in London is quite easy and, if you’re selective and/or lucky, affordable. Here are a few guidelines:
●If you want to stay in a famous luxury hotel but you are also on a budget, reserve it for your first two nights only, switching to a lower priced lodging for your remaining nights. Usually you arrive quite tired, and this allows you to take full advantage of relaxing in elegant surroundings. A second night is also a good idea, or you most likely will succumb to that peculiarly American phenomenon of “if its Tuesday, it must be Belgium” and forget where you’ve been. (Personally, I like to stay at least two nights in a hotel anywhere, whenever possible, so that I can “imprint” enough details in my maxed-out memory center to recall the experience later.)
●On the day you switch hotels, plan your itinerary so returning to your old hotel in the afternoon to pick up your suitcases is convenient. I’ve never had any problem leaving my bags at the desk until late afternoon.
●When making reservations, ask about packages. Oftentimes a budget-stretching special rate that includes the VAT and breakfast can be had even in the more expensive hotels.
my favorite London hotels in Bloomsbury
Located on a crescent-shaped street across from the bucolic Cartwright Gardens, where tennis courts and a playground beckon, this aptly-named bed and breakfast is situated within a converted Georgian building dating from 1810. More description and images.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel
9-13 Bloomsbury Street
In the same area as The Kingsley, the hotel is adjacent to a pub, and inexpensive restaurants can be found on the block. More description and images.
The Ridgemount Hotel
65-67 Gower Street
Located just across the street from where women’s suffrage pioneer Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett lived and died (in 1929) at #2 Gower, and from where the first anaesthetic was administered in England in 1846 at #52, this simple lodging in a 1700s Georgian town house has rooms with and without baths. More description and images.
Thistle Holborn, The Kingsley
Built in 1898, this gorgeous red-brick structure was originally named for Charles Kingsley, the author of some popular English children’s books. It is in a prime location just a few blocks from The British Museum and Covent Garden. More description and images.
my favorite London hotels all around the town
47 Park Street
47 Park Street, Mayfair
Decidedly upscale, this small–just 49 apartments—Edwardian-style luxury hotel is part of the Marriott Grand Residence Club, but it is possible to rent by the night. More description and images.
The Langham, London
1 Portland Place
Located in the West End, just a block from the upscale, curved shopping strip known as Regent Street and not far from Regents Park and the London Zoo, this hotel was established in 1865. It was London’s first grand hotel. More description and images.
The Stafford London
St. James’s Place
Situated on the site that once held the home of Sir Christopher Wren, who is known for designing St. Paul’s Cathedral, this tasteful small hotel is located on a tranquil cul de sac in an exclusive residential section of town. More description and images.
Thistle Hyde Park Lancaster Gate
90-92 Lancaster Gate
Overlooking the leafy Kensington Gardens section of Hyde Park in the Lancaster Gate area of town, this delightful small hotel (54 rooms) is set back from the bustle. It was converted from several residences into a hotel in 1924. My 5th floor room had a tiny window through which I could see the park, and a glorious bathroom where I was able to soak away my travel tensions before I started the long journey home from my most recent visit to London. I slept that night on what could have passed for a cloud–one of the softest beds ever.
Breakfast was taken in a cheery dining room, where a tireless businessman at the next table carried on in several languages from his cellular phone. Another table held what looked to be two members of a rock band. In the lobby, a crew was busy shooting a fashion layout.
At check out, as I wondered out loud how we would get our suitcases across the busy thoroughfare in front of the hotel to the Airbus stop on the other side, an energetic elderly bellman quickly gathered up most of our bags and started walking, hustling them across five lanes to the stop. Stunned, my husband and I picked up the light load that was left and followed. And away we went.
(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)